Today’s Random Tokusatsu: Maniac Hero (2016)

Today’s selection: Hero Mania (AKA Maniac Hero, 2016, dir. Keisuke Toyoshima)

Subgenre: Martial Arts, Superhero

Available from: airplane-only

I caught the new superhero flick Hero Mania on an international flight, and since no other official distributors for it have been announced and there hasn’t been much buzz, I thought it’d be good to drop a recommendation for it here, because it’s great; likely the best Japanese hero movie since Tiger & Bunny: The Rising.

The premise is that Nakatsu, a convenience store clerk at wits’ end with insufferable customers, frequently fantasizes about laying down the law. Through happenstance in the course of a single night, he accidentally meets up with a panty thief who’s mastered the art of the grappling hook, an old man who wants to literally bring the hammer against the town’s obnoxious chavs, and a conniving schoolgirl who’s looking for something more interesting in life… naturally, they form a superhero team. Their gang of vigilantes gains such notoriety that eventually they go public as a hirable security firm recruiting local delinquents to fill out the ranks because, hey, what could go wrong? When the organization goes so far as to string up a reporter for giving them bad press, Nakatsu finds himself in a moral quandary that eventually puts him at odds with the very group he started… just as they’re starting to pick up mercenaries with actual superpowers.

The film is quite funny, the characters and performances are colorful and memorable, the music and cinematography are subtly impressive, and the action choreography is great, but the thing that impressed me the most, considering that this is based on a manga, is how tight the script is. Unlike many adaptations, events flow together naturally without feeling like a chapter-by-chapter replay, the plot twists are unpredictable, but not arbitrary, and numerous things are dropped into dialog early on to eventually have payoff in the climax (let’s just say Chekhov’s yo-yo). Certainly worth checking out!

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